Roy (bam-biddl'dee-BOOM) Haynes
The collection (on the Dreyfus Jazz label) may seem like a random jazz miscellany, but there is a unifying thread here—and it’s Haynes. He started as a swing drummer, and in a fundamental way, he’s remained one. Coltrane spoke of Haynes’ “spreading, permeating” the rhythm; and all these jazz legends sounded different when Haynes sat in—looser, airier, freer to stretch out on a chord and to explore tonal colors. (Compare Trane’s performance of “My Favorite Things” at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival, on Disc 2, with his studio recording of the song backed by Elvin Jones. Jones is like thunder, Haynes more like lightning. Neither is better, just different, each carving out a set of distinctly swerving paths.)
Through the three boxes, we hear Haynes himself evolving, especially in the ‘60s with Hill and McLean, whose dark chords and jagged cadences inspire him to expand his repertoire of rhythms and counter-rhythms. Things take a dive at the start of Disc 3, when, like many others, Haynes succumbed to funk-fusion (which, in its cruder forms, did to jazz what paisley and bell bottoms did to fashion). The spirit's restored toward the end of the disc, when he heads back to standards and leads bands with the likes of Roy Hargrove, Dave Holland, and Kenny Garrett. I should add, though, that 21st-century Haynes can best be heard elsewhere, on the 2003 Love Letters on the Japanese 88s label (available on SACD and LP from Acoustic Sounds), which includes Holland, Kenny Barron, Joshua Redman, and John Scofield, among other notables.
Which only goes to confirm what I wrote last month about Sonny Rollins’ recent concert at Carnegie Hall. (The magnificent first half was a trio set with Roy Haynes and Christian McBride, the doleful second half a set with his no-better-than-adequate regular band.) Even the best musicians—and Rollins and Haynes are among the very best in jazz—are more inspired, and play better, when they’re playing with their peers.